Taking a Partner

by | May 31, 1999 | Direction, Ministry, Persecution

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

For years I had been working alone. It meant traveling over 80,000 kilometers a year; being away from home two-thirds of the time. I was prepared to do this as long as it seemed to be what God wanted. But how many times, lately, the work itself had suffered simply because I could not be in two places at once! I had never forgotten those people in Bulgaria who had asked me to come to their town just as I was leaving the country. By the time I got back to Bulgaria, nearly a year later, much had changed. The meetings they had believed would be so life-changing were no longer possible.

But suppose just suppose I had had a partner traveling with me! Suppose there were two of us … three of us … ten! Someone to be where another could not, to spell each other with the travel, the speaking, even the letter-writing!

The possibility began to haunt me day and night. It would have to be an unusual fellowship, an organism, really, rather than an organization. The less formally we were organized the better, for if we were arrested we would not involve each other. We would be a small band of men-women, too, why not?-captured by the same vision of bringing hope to the Church in its need. Each of us would be a pioneer, probably not even sharing procedures and techniques, because then we would fall into a pattern that would be too easily recognized and too easily controlled.

When I shared my dream with Corrie, she practically shouted with joy.

“I’ll be frank, Andrew-my reaction is altogether selfish. Do you realize that the four of us would be able to see you once in a while?”

Immediately she was sorry she had said it. But I wasn’t. Of course my long absences were hard on us all. I could actually see Joppie and Mark Peter and Paul Denis grow between the time I took off and the time I came home again. Surely if I had help, these long, long trips would not be necessary.

But how to go about finding the people? It wasn’t that others hadn’t offered from time to time. In fact, fairly often, at the close of a talk, I’d find three or four eager young men standing around the rostrum. “Brother Andrew, can I join you in your work behind the Iron Curtain? God has told me, too, to preach the Gospel there.” Others were probably a little more honest. “It sounds so exciting!” They would say. “I’d like to come just to carry your suitcases!”

But I had never felt free to continue these conversations. It wasn’t as though I had a trick or system for getting across these borders again and again, which I could pass on to others to insure their safety too. It was no cleverness or experience of mine that had prevented disaster so far, only the fact that every morning of every trip I consciously placed myself in God’s hands and tried, in so far as possible, not to take a step outside His will. But these are not actions that one person can take for another. And so I would usually say, “Well, if I meet you behind the Iron Curtain then by all means let’s talk some more.”

And that would be the last I would hear of them.

“Still,” I said to Corrie one night, “if God wants us to expand the work, He certainly has prepared the people. How do I find them?”

“Try prayer.”

I laughed. That was my Corrie. The one thing I had not yet done was to ask God for direct guidance to the right person. So we did pray, then and there. And immediately a name came to my mind. Hans Gruber.

I had met Hans in Austria, working at a refugee camp. He was a Dutchman, a giant in size, six-feet-seven, heavy even for that height, and awkward beyond belief. He seemed to have six elbows, ten thumbs, and a dozen knees. And he spoke the most atrocious German I had ever heard.

Everything about Hans, taken individually, was wrong. But put together into one stupendous whole, he was the most totally right personality I had ever met. He could stand up in the camp recreation area and hold five hundred people spellbound hour after hour, simply with words. I had seen it begin to rain while Hans spoke, in that indescribable German, without a single one of his listeners glancing at the sky. Even in the orphaned boys’ compound he was master. This group of 240 bored, restless kids was the terror of every other speaker who visited the camp. For Hans they sat like statues and then followed him around the camp after­ward like pet sheep.

That very evening I wrote Hans asking him if he had ever felt led to bring this preaching ministry behind the Iron Curtain. I knew, I wrote him, where my next trip would be. Newspapers for weeks had been full of the new relaxation of travel restrictions in Russia. It was now possible for foreigners to travel in the Soviet on their own, without an Intourist guide. It was the news I had been waiting for, for so long. The time had come to make my long­dreamed-of penetration into the heartland of communism.

By return mail Hans’s answer came back. He was ecstatic. My suggestion was for him the fulfillment of an old prophecy. When he was in the sixth grade-the last year of school he had attended-he had had a strange sensation every time he looked at the map of Russia. It was as though a voice kept telling him, “Someday you will work for Me in that land.”

“And ever since then,” he wrote, “I’ve studied Russian to be ready when the time came. My Russian is very good now-almost as good as my German. When do we go?”

With Hans’s letter came a major new step in my ministry, the taking on of a partner, the doubling of the work Christ was doing through this channel.

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 250-253.


Taking a Partner